Goliath Grouper Report
Monday, September 15, 2008
Every year an amazing event occurs off the shores of Southeastern Florida. Goliath Groupers aggregate to our waters to mate during late summer and early fall. This year a friend of mine, Mike Phelan, invited me to join the Palm Beach Reef Research Team as we observed and counted the incredible mating behavior displayed by these incredible fish.
Here is the report on what the Reef Team observed.
Report in PDF
A Tribute to Richard Sloan
Thursday, March 22, 2007
On March 22, 2007 a great artist, Richard Sloan, passed away in his Palm City, Florida home. Not only was he one of the most respected wildlife painters of our time but also I am proud to say, he was my good friend.
Like most of the people with whom I have become friends, Richard was a diver. We met while a friend of his was being certified at a dive shop in Stuart and for the past ten years we enjoyed diving, dining and the movies. If it werenít for Richard, I may have never gotten the nerve to start submitting my photography for print.
Richard inspired people to go for more. He was never content with the status quo. His talent on canvas carried through to his life and although illness prevented him from doing the physical things he loved during this past year, his attitude was not that of a quitter, but an optimist. At dinner a few nights before he died he was still planning his next dive trip and his next painting.
People come and go in our lives. Many leave no impression, some a little and if youíre lucky, a few inspire. Richardís friendship did just that; He encouraged me to work harder, persevere and believe in myself.
Many will miss my friend, Richard Sloan. I will miss our times together and especially, his artistic advice. However, as many great men do, he has left our world a legacy of beauty for all to embrace. Good-bye Richard, you will never be forgotten.
"Karen, Your work is just stunning. As a diver and UW videographer I known how difficult and challenging it is to get that perfect shot. You make it look easy. Great Work!!"
Richard Sloan -- 11/12/2003
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Diving as a sport is fun, exciting and most of all, therapeutic. It is not unusual to feel your blood pressure drop once you descend to the sea bottom. What's missing? The color red.
Have you ever wondered why so many underwater photos turn out flat and blue? The reason is once you pass ten feet the spectrum begins to vanish. First red and oranges followed by the rest of the color wheel we all learn about in art class.
Any easy way to counteract a flat, blue photo is to have strobes connected to you camera to lighten up the foreground and bring all the vibrant colors back. The other alternative, a color correction filter such as those manufactured by URpro Filters© and a good photo program such as Photoshop.
Once you have downloaded your photos onto your computer the first thing to do is adjust the levels and add red to your image. Sound easy? Not at all!
Not only do you need to adjust for red but also green and blue - based on RGB profiles in whichever photo program you are using. Do not despair; once you've done this a few times, it gets easier.
The photo included with this article was very flat and blue. Using a special "recipe", the color levels, brightness/contrast and saturation were adjusted to deliver a vibrant, colorful image of a Giant Clam from the Maldive Islands.
Learning underwater photography is like relearning photography all together.
Understanding your digital camera and computer program is essential. My recommendation is to take a simple Digital 101 course: Nikon School has a great one! After that it's a matter of settings and repetition. It's easy to forget how you got from point A to the end result.
Anyone interested in underwater photography should have an understanding of colors, their camera and the computer. Once you have that mastered, there's no limit to what you can accomplish with your dive gear and a good underwater camera system.
Maldives Trip Report
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Last year when my good friend Eric asked if I wanted to go to the Maldives to see Whale Sharks, I jumped at the chance. He found a liveaboard and booked the two of us on the MV Sea Queen, a smaller boat, with the one thing I insist upon when I travel: my own bathroom.
Upon arriving in Male, the Capital of the Maldives, our group of eleven was greeted by Lisa, one of the two Divemasters from the boat. She and her husband Dave, our other Divemaster, escorted everyone to the boat’s donghie. We navigated through, what seemed to me, dozens of large, beautiful boats. Finally we docked next to the “Queen”. It was much smaller than most of the other boats and I wondered how I would handle the two-week journey.
To my surprise, the “Queen” earned every bit of her name and more. Taking only twelve, and in this case eleven divers, camaraderie immediately developed among the passengers. Not only did the Divemasters Lisa and Dave make everyone feel at home, the rest of the crew couldn’t do enough for us.
There are very few places I call breathtaking. The Maldives is one of them. The marine life is plentiful, the soft corals are incredible, there are walls that drop into the abyss, and Manta Rays swimming over your head. Combine that with experienced divers, a comfortable well-kept boat and the beautiful surroundings this vacation is sure to become one of my most memorable.
The dives were well planned according to the season. Each “thila” had its own personality. No two dives were the same. The topography differed from one atoll to the next. There was never a lack of beauty or ambiance. Most of the sites had unlimited visibility with a mild to moderate current. The seas were a comfortable 84 -85 degrees.
The crew gave the divers freedom to explore, another thing I love to do. It was up to you if you wanted to stay with the dive guides who knew where “the good stuff” was. No time limits were given but most of my dives were well over an hour.
What happened under the water was paralleled with the activity on the boat. My fellow passengers, all British, were a delight! Although I had to think in meters and still don’t understand BARS, along with a little problem translating their version of “English”, I can honestly say this group was more fun, more experienced, more knowledgeable and friendlier than other groups I’d met on larger, more luxurious liveaboards.
Meals, prepared by Sri Lankan and Indian cooks, were delicious. The desserts were incredible! We ate a variety of fish, chicken and meat dishes along with fresh vegetables, fruits and salads. If someone had special requests, they were accommodated.
The cabins were small but comfortable. There was plenty of hot water for showering and the linens were changed after the first week. Because the dive gear and compressors were on the donghie, not the large boat, it was very quiet.
The salon area of the boat was equipped with a television, DVD and stereo. It also had areas for camera gear. The sun deck was spacious and for those who wished to camp out under the stars you were allowed to sleep on the sundeck. Other boats I have been on would not allow this.
The Maldives has something for everyone. For me, seeing the different species of sea life, especially the anemones with the anemone fish, was the main reason I wanted to go on the trip. I came away which so much more: Great diving, new friends (who have invited me to dive with them in other “exotic” places) and over 6000 photos to sort through!
The next time you plan for an extended stay on a liveaboard, don’t discount smaller vessels. The old saying, ” Good things come in small packages” does not only apply to diamond rings. It can be an important consideration when planning your next dive vacation – as well as other aspects in our daily lives.
"Cuan Law" Rules
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
A few months ago, after much web surfing, I decided to take a trip somewhere I?d never been. The destination: The British Virgin Islands. And after much investigating resorts vs. liveaboards, I choose the Trimaran, Cuan Law.
This beautiful boat had boasted of its builder, crew, cabins, food, destination and special features to accommodate either divers or non-divers. I was not disappointed. The Cuan was everything it promised!
My cabin was roomy with plenty of storage space for everything I over packed, plus more. The boat is beautifully maintained. The salon is roomy and comfortable with a well stocked bar and snacks available night and day. If you needed something you didn?t see on deck all one needed to do was simply ask and it would magically appear ? including an iPod adapter I had forgot!
The food, prepared by Chef Dan, never stopped coming. From sea bass to duck, all meals were deliciously prepared and beautifully presented. Wine was offered with dinner and those who needed special diets were not forgotten.
Dive Masters, Abi and Scott, or Captain Steve briefed all dives. The story of the sinking of the Rhone was especially informative ? Don?t worry guys, I?ll never tell! Divemasters were in the water with the divers at all times. For those of use who prefer to be left alone to photograph, video or just take in the sights, dinghies were at our disposal in case someone?s navigation skills needed help.
Instruction was available for those who wanted to add a few skills to their list. The ship?s store had a nice variety of shirts, hats, sarongs, etc. In addition to that, the boat provided Nitrox, charged either by the week or by the dive, whichever was less.
Although all of that either met or exceeded expectation, the crowning touch, for me, was not the DVD/VHS collection and large screen TV nor was it jumping naked from the Willy T ? thank you Stewies! For me what sets this boat apart from other liveaboards was ?spa? service. Chris, the boat?s engineer and masseuse, was just what I needed to round out my trip.
Conditions in the BVI?s were good. Visibility ranged from 40 feet to about 100 depending on the location, marine life was good but lacked a little in large animals and water temperature was well above 82 the whole time. After Florida diving year round in either 5mm or 7mm suits, shedding all that rubber for just a skin and hooded vest felt wonderful.
For friends or family who are not divers, the Cuan?s water activities included snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, hammocks, water skiing and even an excursion into town to do a little shopping. With the sails up and nice breeze the boat can do in excess of ten knots. All in all, the Cuan Law is a perfect choice for any diver who wants a little pampering along with their diving.
For information on the Cuan Law and its sister ship in the Galapagos, Lammerlaw, go to http://bvisailing.com/ . Be sure to tell them Karen sent you.
Check out Karen's newest photos at the 6th Annual Downtown Naples Art Show, October 16 -17. Karen will also be exhibiting and selling her work in Delray Beach November 27 & 28, The Stuart Boat Show, and Las Olas Art Festival in March.
2004 - 53rd Annual Boca Raton Museum of Art's All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition.
Out of 1100 submissions, from over 400 artists, "Neptune's Nemesis" and "Brain Child" were accepted into this prestigous exhibit. Karen was one of three artist's to have two pieces chosen for the show.
"Grouper Under Bait Fish Arch" was awarded an honorable mention at the 2004 annual Martin County Juried Art Show. This show is the kick off for "Art's Fest" in Stuart, FL.
New book to be released by early 2005
Coming Next Year, "Underwater Digital Imagery" by Karen Christopher.
This stunning coffee table book will combine digital photographic images along with photo tips from Karen.
Click here to download the sample. (This may download straight to "My Documents" if you have Winzip installed)
AE "Bean" Backus Gallery, "Through the Eye of the Camera" Juried photography show was held from October 22 until November 15. This year all three works were accepted into the show.
Honorable Mentions were awarded to "Night Life" in the Great Outdoors category and "Soft Coral Forest" in the Digitally Enhanced category. Another photograph, "Divers Descending" did not receive a ribbon but was selected to be hung in the exhibit.
There?s No Place Like Home
I never knew the ?old Cozumel.? I started diving there right before the creation of the ?Marine Park? and before the cruise industry became a major source of income for the Island. It used to take two hours to drive to the Miami Airport and an hour and ten minutes to fly to Cozumel. That was when Mexicana and American flew there non-stop. Even though it takes more than twice that time to fly there now, I still love the Island, its people and their diving.
Cozumel has magnificent walls encrusted with beautiful hard and soft corals, coral heads that rise within 10 feet of the surface, incredible sponge formations and a good variety of marine life. Dive sites, closer inshore, have vast fields of grass and sandy areas where you might catch sight of a spotted eagle ray feeding, or a hole with six spotted moray eels twisting themselves every direction so they can all fit.
The reefs on the north end of the island have their own aquatic allure. For the past three years ? and probably longer since I just found about this three years ago, Spotted Eagle Rays migrate through the waters on the north end. Sightings of over a dozen at once have been reported and photographed from anywhere between January and April. By April, most of them have left for ?other areas.?
This year I have been back to Cozumel three times and each time have noticed something different: turtles. More turtles than in the past. Since last year, I have seen turtles on almost every dive I?ve done: Sometimes up to four or five. Most predominate are the Hawksbill and Green turtles.
I love turtles. They have been one of my favorite subjects since I started dabbling in underwater photography. I began scuba diving ten years ago off the shores of Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida. Our waters, when it?s not cold and we have visibility, have some of the finest diving anywhere, including the Florida Keys.
On any day given day in Palm Beach you are almost guaranteed seeing a variety of turtles. Turtles are abundant off our shores. During nesting season you hear jokes on the dive charters about the ?Volkswagen parking lot? off the Breakers Hotel. Jupiter and Palm Beach are home to many species including the Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green, Kemp Ripley and Leatherback turtles.
It?s also not unusual to see an eagle ray (or two), large schools of barracuda and thousands of tropical fish. If you?re really lucky it?s easy to drift past the not so occasional Lemon, Reef, Black tip, Nurse or Bull Shark. This pales in comparison to the rare, but verified sightings, of Whale Sharks, Sunfish (Mola Mola) and Goliath groupers off the Southeast Florida coast.
As a scuba diver, I am spoiled. My house is in South Florida. The reefs of Jupiter and Palm Beach are my backyard. But Cozumel is my real life fantasy world. There are many good, reputable dive operations, the food is great and you can still find nice, inexpensive places to stay. In addition to that, the Cozumelianos are probably some of the nicest people I?ve ever met. Every year on Fat Tuesday they throw a great party and now that the turtles have returned, ?there?s no place like home.?
Utila ? Bay Islands Sept. 2003
Last month three friends and I embarked on a journey to Utila, one of the Bay Islands off the shore of Honduras. We tried to get reservations together and could not so my friends elected to stay on the main island and I chose a small resort a five minute boat ride from Utila. It?s not a hop, skip and a jump to get there, but once you arrive at Laguna Beach Dive Resort in Utila, you won?t care how long it took to get there.
First impressions are usually lasting. The moment I landed at the ?airport? in Utila I was met by Luciano, the resort?s manager. Other guests and I were then driven to a pier and then taken by boat to the resort. What the facility may lack in modern conveniences such as televisions and telephones it makes up for in ambiance.
Each room is a small cottage built over the water with its own private pier. Fresh drinking water is supplied in every room along with the greatest necessity of all: insecticides. Yes, there are bugs. Lots of them! Bring bug spray, with Deet. And a lot of it! But if the chief complaint among guests at a dive resort is the mosquito population, in my opinion, you are way ahead of the game. The majority of the guests were return visitors which says a lot for this small island retreat.
My friends and I managed to hook up two times during our vacation for dinner. Because there was no phone service from the resort, they do have a satellite phone in case of emergencies, our boat Captains and Dive masters arranged meeting times using the radios on the dive boats.
All meals are included in the price along with three dives per day, two night dives and complimentary boat service to the mainland during daylight hours. A small charge is incurred if you want to go over in the evening. Meals are served buffet style in the main lodge. The bar is stocked with most everything from sodas to vodka. The guests keep track of their own alcoholic beverages and the kitchen is open to everyone when meals are not being served. The grounds and rooms are beautifully maintained by a very friendly and courteous staff. The gift shop has the usual variety of t-shirts, hats, and postcards but also some very nice ?islandy? resort wear.
The diving is typical of the Caribbean: Sloping walls, large coral formations and beautiful walls all of which seemed to be in good health. Rains clouded visibility a bit but on the average it ranged from eighty feet plus. We went out in search of the elusive whale shark but unfortunately we did not find one. What we did see was an abundance of small tropicals: parrotfish, angels, grunts, rays, eels, groupers, etc.
The diving is good for the novice as well as the most seasoned diver. Little or no current makes the anchor diving easy to navigate. Most of my experience is with drift diving, navigating not being one of my fortes but I managed to find the anchor line every time! My dive master, Raoul was tremendous. He kept a careful watch over us but was not intrusive. This made each dive relaxing and allowed me to photograph things without feeling rushed.
Dive gear is stored right at the pier. Each diver has their own locker assigned to them. At the end of the dives BC?s and regulators are cleaned by the staff. Rinse tubs are provided on the dock for gear and cameras. The boats are large allowing up to a dozen people to be comfortably transported to the dive sites. As spoiled as I am with six packs on many trips, I did not feel cramped or confined. This is not a cattle boat by any means. Since as guests we were a ?captive audience,? the social aspect was a lot of fun and the camaraderie on boat continued on land. Language was not a barrier.
In all, I would rate this resort a B+. The food was good and plentiful, the value for the dollar was excellent, the diving beautiful (even though we didn?t wee a whale shark), the staff hospitable, the cottages very charming and Utila, on the whole, an interesting, laidback island.
Meeting Painter Pascal LeCoq
Karen with "Painter of the Blue" Pascal LeCoq in West Palm Beach, March 2003.
Peter and Julie Cummings Library Event
During the month of September 2003, Karen's Photographs will be on display at the Peter and Julie Cummings Library, 2551 Southwest Matheson Avenue, Palm City, Florida. An artist's reception will be held on Saturday, September 13, 2003, from 3:00pm to 5pm. The exhibit will be open during regular library hours. All photos are for sale. Please contact the library at 772-288-2551 for more information and directions.
A Tickle Stick Away
For anyone who has learned photography in a basic "above the water" course, the shift into underwater brings many challenges. You have to relearn or re-teach yourself how to shoot all over again. Distance, f-stops, shutter speed and lighting are trickier in the ocean.
Once you descend below 10 feet, you lose reds leaving the colder, blue values dominant: meaning photos will be very "flat". Use of lighting gives underwater photos their unique and beautiful effects. You must learn to position the strobe correctly to reduce the possibility of backscatter. Luckily, most companies that manufacture strobes, such as Nikonos, have made that job a lot easier by marking angles directly on to the strobe arm.
If you are shooting with a housing, focus is not as critical for you. However, if like myself, you shoot with Nikonos V or any other amphibious camera a rule of thumb that I use when I teach basic skills is "a tickle stick away". This also works well for any 35mm lens, Reef Master cameras or others that are based on three foot or more closeness.
A lobster tickle stick is approximately three feet long. When used in conjunction with a two-foot to three-foot range on an f8 or 5.6 setting your chances of getting your subject in focus is usually very good. Of course, the "A" (Automatic) setting is what most of us use in the beginning.
As you progress, see improvement, and get the "hang" of photographing while trying to control buoyancy, start experimenting with the different f-stops and shutter speeds. You may not become an expert overnight but you will see how manual exposures can add to the beauty of your photography.
"The Three Amigos" photo on this page is included in the set of "frame It" notecards by fantaSeas. Click here for information on odering a set of four or individual cards. All cards are blank inside and feature four beautful photos of marine life.